This is an excerpt from one of my WIPs. I’m working hard on this one with an editor, trying to whip it into shape for submission. The setting is the Texas hill country, somewhere near and dear to my heart and takes place in the 60s.
Sixteen year old Eli moves to small town Greer, Texas to live with his grandparents. Almost the moment he arrives, strange things begin to happen. Things that aren’t real. He’s plagued by disturbing visions and voices whispering his name. And it all has something to do with Idunn, the girl who’s haunted his memory since he was seven. Together, they search to find what happened in Greer long before either of them was born and find out how they are connected.
Eli’s eyes flew open. A slight noise—the mere whisper of a sound—had pulled him from a deep sleep and thrust him into an unwilling consciousness.
Someone had called his name. Faint echoes of the words fluttered around the room, bouncing off the walls like a moth trying to escape.
He jerked upright and peered into every corner of the long, narrow bedroom. The full moon shining in through the windows showed him nothing out of the ordinary. No monsters lurked, ready to pounce the minute he let his guard down.
“Who’s there?” he said, his voice hoarse and uncertain.
Only silence answered. Tense moments ticked past.
“Grandma? Is that you?”
His grandparents always went to bed early, but she might have come to check on him like she used to do when he was little. Only if she had, he would have heard her coming down the hall. The old hardwood floors in the farm house creaked and popped like crazy.
This time of the night especially. Maybe that’s what he heard. In his dreams it only sounded like someone calling his name.
Eli glanced down at the black lab mix curled up and sleeping peacefully across the foot of the bed. He nudged the dog with his toe, but it didn’t do any good. Instead of waking, Pete only sighed, his big paws twitching as though lost in the middle of a doggie dream.
Grandpa always said Pete had good ears. If he heard anything out of the ordinary, he’d be awake and barking like crazy. Wouldn’t he?
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m hearing things.
Whenever Eli visited his grandparents, it always took him a few days to settle in. After growing up in the city, he found life at his grandparents’ farm a little too quiet sometimes. Especially at night. No steady hum of the air conditioner, no muffled dialogue from the neighbor’s television, no traffic sounds. Instead, coyotes howled and crickets chirped. One of Grandpa’s cows bellowed every now and then. Until he got used to the difference, sleep never came easy and vague, unsettling dreams often plagued him. This must be one of those times. It had to be. Nothing else made any sense.
When he didn’t hear anything more, Eli’s tangled nerves began to relax, and he allowed his mind to float into that place halfway between waking and sleeping. Night birds called out in muted tones, the curtains danced in the breeze, and he felt himself drifting away once more…
Until it happened again.
It seemed to be coming from everywhere. In a panic, Eli jerked his feet loose from the tangled bedclothes and climbed out of bed. He stumbled across the room to the desk sitting beneath the bank of windows that marched down the length of the wall and overlooked the yard.
He bent down and leaned forward until his nose almost brushed the rusty window screen. A subtle breeze lifted the hair on his arms. The damp night air felt cool against his skin. A thin thread of clouds floated across the sky, making fingers of darkness on the ground below. Moonlight dusted everything it touched with a luminescent glow. The stars in the sky glittered and everything below stood out in sharp detail. The shingles on the pump house, the crank on the limestone well, and the wooden pickets of the fence. All the way to the woods at the back of the pasture behind the house.
The stunning view before him resembled something captured in a photograph or painted on a canvas. Beautiful, but almost too vivid to be real. It reminded him of a picture his art teacher had showed the class. A painting done by a famous artist.
Eli glimpsed a flicker of movement out in the yard. Over by the fence where Grandma hung her wash. What could it be? He peered into the shadows until his eyes burned with the effort.
He shook his head. I must have been mistaken. He was about to turn away when it happened again. Grandma must have forgotten to take something off the line…something caught in the wind. Only she hadn’t done any laundry that day.
What could it be? The harder Eli focused, the less distinct it became until he stared slightly to the right, the way Grandpa taught him to do at night with oncoming traffic. He tried not to blink; afraid she might disappear.
A young girl stood halfway between the barn and the well house, her eyes only shadows against a pale white face. The wind pulled at her old-fashioned dress, twisting it around her ankles and lifted tendrils of long dark hair that whipped across her face like writhing snakes.
Eli flattened a palm against his chest; his heart raced like it did when he did wind sprints. What the crap was she doing, wandering around outside in the middle of the night, looking like something out of a horror movie?
Out past curfew and sneaking home maybe? The girl probably lived at one of the farms down the road and had cut through his grandparents’ place to keep from being seen. Eli let go of the breath he’d been holding and smacked himself in the forehead with an open palm. Of course. It made perfect sense.
Lucky for her he’d been the one to see her and not Grandma. She’d have the girl’s parents on the phone in a heartbeat, and they’d probably ground her for life. Or until Christmas at least. He rolled his eyes and grinned. Must have been some party.
He glanced back outside, and the girl had come to a standstill in the middle of the yard. Her eyes rolled back in her head like someone in a trance, and she raised her arm and pointed a long, thin finger straight at him. Then she skinned her lips back from her teeth and mouthed the words.
Holy Shit! He flinched and banged his head against the frame of the window so hard the glass panes rattled. His feet moved, propelling him backward across the room until he felt the wooden knobs of the old chest dig into his spine.
Eli rubbed at the sore spot on the back of his head while his heart slammed against his ribs like a bird trying to escape. By the time he got up enough nerve to cross the room and peer through the window again, the yard stood empty and silent. He let out his breath and rubbed at the goose bumps on his arms. She’d vanished. If she was ever there in the first place.